I always thought I was a morning person — the smell of coffee, warm early sunshine, and the promise of a new day beckoning. I loved getting up with the sun. But once my daughter started preschool, my most hated time of day quickly became 8:15 AM, closely followed by 2:15 PM. I hated those two evil times of day: pick-up and drop-off. It wasn’t the waiting in line that bothered me, or the mad rush to buckle my kid in her carseat and speed off before I ticked off the less-than-patient mom behind me. Nope.
I hated rolling up to my daughter’s preschool in my crappy car.
“Oh! Your car has a boo-boo!” my daughter’s teacher exclaimed one morning.
Yes, yes it does. My car, in fact, has several boo-boos. That one’s from running into a concrete pole at the bank drive-thru, and the one back there goes with the extensive damage to the whole front end from the time I got in two car accidents in one day, which I think is a feat that only I could accomplish. But it’s not just the outside of my car that’s a mess.
The inside’s even worse.
I store a lot of junk in my car. I’m the sort of person who’ll pack up bags of stuff to take to Goodwill and proceed to drive around with them in the trunk for months. I don’t know why. I’m also guilty of leaving various items strewn all over the floor and passenger seat for even longer — things like fast food bags, the shoes my daughter insists on kicking off the second we pull out of the parking lot.
I wish I didn’t do this, and about every six weeks or so I’ll declare that I’m turning over a new leaf. I clean up the car, go to the carwash, maybe even get a fancy little air freshener that looks like a candle jar — and it lasts about 22 hours and I’m right back where I started. Once I even got the brilliant idea to put a trash can in the car. I think it’s still in there buried under some old Target bags filled with shirts I planned to return and then didn’t. Another time, there was a weird smell and eventually I found a rotten green pepper under my seat. I have no idea how it got there; I don’t even like green peppers.
Why I can’t keep my car clean is an eternal mystery. My house is spotless and organized. My family looks generally polished and well put-together too, but I can’t seem to extend my orderliness into the driveway. It’s like I just don’t have enough energy to keep up with the car on top of everything else I do as a working mom and dutiful wife. Maybe I just have bad car-ma.
For a long time my car was my literal dirty secret. I was ashamed of driving a banged up, cluttered rust-bucket whose outside was (and still is) held together with actual duct tape. Give me credit though — I got black duct tape to match the paint job, because silver tape obviously would’ve been tacky.
I didn’t want my friends to see what I drove. Even more, I didn’t want the other moms at preschool, in their sparkling mid-size SUVs, to see me in my gross ride. Every time I went out of the house I felt like I was driving the Beverly Hillbillies’ car, like everyone was staring at me and judging.
To make matters worse, after my daughter’s first (and so far only) trip to the ER for stitches, she pasted the back windows with all the stickers the hospital staff gave her for being such a good patient — a lot of stickers. I keep telling myself that tomorrow I’ll get out a razor blade and some Goo Gone, but, well, tomorrow never comes.
Living with shame about anything is no fun, and it clearly wasn’t helping me become more productive when it came to cleaning up my car, so I decided to finally give myself a break. When you’re a working parent of a small child, you quickly learn to choose your battles. Parents can’t do everything, or at least I can’t, so we do the chores that are most important. I clearly value having a neat house over having a tidy car. Out in the driveway, the car is kind of “out of sight, out of mind.”
When it came to my car, I needed a big change of perspective. My automobile wasn’t a representation of my failures. Surprisingly, it was actually a product of my successes. People often tell me that they can’t keep up with me, and it’s true. I live life in the proverbial fast lane, and my car helps me do that literally and figuratively. Its messiness is a reflection of how I live life to the fullest, and I’m proud of that.
The reason my car is so beat up is because it is well-ridden in.
I’m a wanderer, an explorer, and I’m teaching my daughter to be the same way. I’m grateful to my car because without it, we wouldn’t be able to go on so many lively adventures. There would be no spontaneous road trips, no treks to the Everglades, no overnight rides up the East Coast. Because my car isn’t fancy, we have no qualms about sandy beach days hauling a paddle board. The memories we make in our junky car are more important than the prestige of riding around in a gleaming status symbol.
I now call my car my “Adventure-Mobile.” It may not be pretty, but it’s safe and it gets us where we’re going — from school to running errands, to every off-the-beaten-path destination and hole-in-the-wall with the best pie from Key West to New England. My car really is an accurate reflection of who I am and what I value — fun, adventure, exploring, learning, memory making, and discovering new experiences with my family. For this, I am filled with gratitude for what I drive.
Thanks, messy car. And here’s to many more adventures to come.More On